Traffic from Minsk to the Ukraine was light, except that the occasional heavily loaded trucks slowed him down. After crossing into the Ukraine, Chefman stopped at Chernihiv for gas. He remembered that Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in the Ukraine, and was the subject of a treaty with his own Byzantine Romani in the early 10th Century. At the time, it was populated by Vikings, who were known as the Rus. During the war he had visited a famous Viking burial mound called The Black Grave along with some of his wartime comrades. As far as the Germans were concerned, the fact that Vikings had occupied the area meant that it should naturally become part of their state, since they regarded themselves as Nordic. He was interested in the fact that certain of the grave goods were discovered to have been Byzantine.
Once the car was filled, he drove the 100 kilometers to Kiev, uneventfully. He had no idea where to start looking for Lena, but he guessed that the older part of the city on the West bank of the Dnieper would be a good place to poke around and ask questions. He parked the car near Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), and got out for a look around. After a while, he decided to check into the Premier Palace Hotel in the old city, on Shevchenka Boulevard. He liked old hotels that had been restored. It would also be smart to have the car parked in a hotel garage instead of where it could be seen on the street by watchful police.
After checking in, he took a seat at the lobby bar, ordered a kvas with turnip juice, and watched the guests and staff come and go. He'd learned over the centuries to spot the ones who might help him find something for some cash "under the table."
He didn't have to wait long. A hotel manager was walking toward him, with two bellmen in tow. And he bore the distinctive sign of a man from LETSH: a tiny "L" tattooed on his left ear lobe. Chefman had seen it on the man he'd eliminated in Belarus. Things were getting interesting.
"Ugh, I swear that's the last time I have peyote." Sergio said, " It tastes like a cat took a dump in my mouth."
"Believe me, it smells that way too." Frank replied; "I don't know what to say to you lil half-brother, you've been through rehab four times already. I didn't think it could get any worse than the time you accosted Dr. Drew and yelled at him for discontinuing rotary switches and winged tuners while wearing a bunny suit."
"What!?" Rango asked from the front seat of their rental car.
"Molotov! Bah-rew gatta moo-no rah!...." Sergio was still a bit..... well.. supremely wasted.
"He means Doc Oppraman's daughter's wedding Rango. He was invited just after "50 Shades of Blanc" got published, he was still doing the book circuit tour and met Doc in the hotel lobby that his daughter's wedding was being held in.... Two hours and a champagne fountain later TMZ and the police showed up... it was on CNN." Frank explained.
"Missed that." Rango replied; "We better get him a shower and some food, there's a Westin Inn at the next exit. I have a Groupon."
As the manager approached, he suddenly gave Ell a strange look. Chefman noticed something, he hadn't seen before; this man was in his early eighties; and Ell studied his face. He had become something of an expert at facial aging, and he felt something. "I know this man," he thought. "I have seen this face before."
The manager now had an utterly shocked expression on his face, as if he'd seen a ghost. He sent the two bellmen away, and approached Ell. It was as if he didn't know what to do, or what to say. He simply stared, mouth agape.
"Guten Tag, Bodashka, ist es herrlich ist es nicht?" said Ell in perfect Prussian-accented German. He knew the man all right; as a youth, Bodashka had been one of his Ukranian informers. The words stopped the man in his tracks. All the blood drained from Bodashka's florid face. He felt dizzy, as if he were about to pass out. All he could manage was a word.
"Oh, I take good care of myself, Bodashka. Plenty of exercise and fresh air. Aren't you happy to see me after all these years? I'm very happy to see you, my old kamerad."
He slapped the man on the back. The man's knees buckled a little.
"Let's sit and have a drink together. Here, I'll pour you some kvas. Do you like it with turnip juice or with honey?"
The man took the glass, his hand shaking, and gulped some of the bready beverage. "Hauptmann Engel..."
Chefman laughed. "Shhh, Bodashka, my name is Chefman now. I'm an American now."
Bodashka nodded slowly. If anyone found out about his wartime activities, he would be ruined, jailed, and maybe executed. He didn't know what to do. He looked with terror at Chefman. How had this...ghost...aged so little? He should be a corpse by now.
"I need your help, Bodashka. I'm looking for a friend. If you help me, I will say nothing about our past, and I will pay you well. But if you turn on me, you are a dead man. Do you understand?"
The man nodded, his mind racing. "That car you came in, Herr Hauptmann, that is a lot like my friend Karinsky's car."
"That's because it is Mr. Karinsky's car, Bodashka. I am borrowing it from him."
"Yes, I am borrowing it. Mr. Karinsky doesn't need it right now. He's resting."
The man's eyes opened wider. "What do you want me to do, Herr...Mr...Chefman?" he asked, still in shock.
"I'm looking for a woman. Maybe you know her." Chefman took out his iPhone and showed Bodashka a picture he'd taken of Lena. The old man started to shake visibly.
"Bingo," thought Chefman.
"Red?.... Grande-Green Tea- Frappuccino- with Raspberry.... Is there a RED HERE?" The barista in the Starbucks around the corner from Red's lair yelled; "Red? Hello? Your drink is ready. Who's the troll that ordered the green Frap?!"
Just then there was a scream from the women's bathroom. Red had been caught gnawing his way through Traci's (the soccer-mom who only worked there to escape her children and husband) head, after she interrupted his daily grooming that he did at Starbucks ever since Ratchet was not around to clean his bathroom anymore.
"I'm not a troll, I'm a leprechaun! What are you a fuggin' Smurf? What's up with that beanie?!" Red grabbed his Frap and the barista in each hand and poured them both down his rotting throat, he picked his teeth with the barista's ponytail and let out an enormous burp: "BBbbbbllllUUurrrggghttt!!!!" The sound shattered windows all down the strip mall, children cried for their mothers and car alarms echoed for miles.
CNN later reported the casualty numbers for the past week: Dead- 305. Injured-513. Days until Green Tea Frappuccino supply's are replenished-408... Kardashian's?... Still tramps.
"Bodashka, why are you still working now that you are what, in your eighties?"
"Hauptmann Eng..er..Mr. Chefman, I have managed this hotel for nearly 40 years. It is my life's work. And, well, I have a younger wife who likes to shop..."
"And you are working on the side for the Leprechaun, I see."
"She likes to shop. What can I do? If I don't buy, she leaves me for someone closer to her age."
"Bodashka, I will pay $100,000 US for the woman whose picture I showed you. A wire transfer into your bank account. Or a paypal transfer, though you will have to pay your own fees. You paypal, you pay fees."
"Hauptmann, I would love to help you, and for that I can give you information as to where they are keeping her."
"No, Bodashka. I'm not James Bond who breaks into hideouts or headquarters and rescues kidnapped women. $150,000 US, and you bring her to me. Here. Within 24 hours. Tell them the Leprechaun wants her here. Tell them whatever is believable. But bring the woman to me. Alone. No tricks. If anything happens to me, my people in Berlin release secret documents that I gave them regarding your past activities on behalf of the Nazis. Do we have a deal?"
He winged the business about the secret documents. It was a bluff.
Bodashka thought for a minute, as he drained his glass. He had little choice, and he needed the money. He figured if Chefman was still alive, anything was possible, and didn't doubt the existence of secret documents implicating him as a traitor.
"I will bring her," he replied. "I will need a little advance. A show of good faith."
"Give me your information. You will have $20,000 in an hour. Remember, no tricks. If there are tricks, you will suffer the consequences."
Bodashka wrote his information on a hotel note pad, and slipped it to Chefman.
"Thank you, Mr. Chefman," Bodashka said loudly. I hope that I have been of service to you. I will have the parcel delivered to your room this evening around ten PM. Is there anything else we can do for you to make your stay more enjoyable?"
"Thank you, no. I appreciate your efforts." He gave the old man a wink. Then he went to his room with his backpack and gig bag, took out his laptop, and initiated the paypal transfer to Bodashka's account.
An 800 year old man who has worked and invested for that long accumulates a fair amount of wealth without being a financial genius. It would be an expensive date, but it would not break the bank. And the world needed to be saved in order for him to enjoy the next few hundred years. He set the alarm on his iPhone to 8:30, and laid down for a nap.
Opraman's therapist tried to place a call to several individual's whom he was fairly certain were targets.. he had reviewed the notes from the past few sessions. Despite being totally stoned for each session (in a feeble attempt to cope with Opraman's ravings) he still took coherent notes. And a pattern was forming. something about a fixation on Leprechauns, and something about a vendetta towards a very old man who was occasionally incontinent.
He called 3 different people....a fellow named Sergio...who promptly hung up on him. Then it was Rango's turn to curse into the earpiece and hang up. Finally, the therapist decided to call a guitar dealer in Nevada by the name of Red. The name had come up too many times. He had to warn someone that Opraman was dangerous.
The phone was ringing....the ringback tone was a recording of the "Lucky Charms" jingle. Suddenly, the therapist keeled over, blood dripping from his nostrils, and face an ashen grey...he had stopped breathing.
30 miles away, in his underground refuge...his "man cave"...Opraman slowly withdrew the needle from the therapist voodoo doll.
"Hated to do it" he said to himself. "But he was getting to close". He grinned to himself...he had killed two birds with one stone....he had given his therapist a post dated check the day before instead of cash...and now he would stop the check and avoid paying for the last few sessions.
30 miles away, Red's chief Leprechaun finally picked up the still ringing phone. But, there was no one on the other end. He hung up.
The phone rang again. He picked it up on the first ring this time. It was Opraman.
"The time has come" he heard Opraman say.
"Gather your forces....Ell Chefman and Hanzi Hanzomatic must be stopped before they form a union too powerful for us to overcome."
Opraman hung up the phone,. The master plan was coalescing.
30 miles away, Lindsey Lohan kept knocking on the therapist's door, but there was no answer.
"Damn," she said to herself, "If I'm late, he'll call it resisting. When I'm early he says I'm trying to please him. When I'm on time he says I'm being obsessive. I love this guy! Maybe he'll see me 3 times a day if I ask".
She didn't realize that she had had her last therapy session several hours before.
"Hans!! There are two guys at the front door looking for you. I don't have to tell you how sick of this s#!t I am, why do people keep showing up here!? I thought we already had this discussion, no more "guitar" dudes unless you ask me first. They better not be here to sell you anything, and don't lie to me and tell me it was a "trade". I'm not falling for that anymore, how would you feel if I had as many high heels as you do guitars?" [Beep. censored for privacy] asked the man known in some circles as Hattori Handsomatic.
Hans couldn't answer that openly, he would love it if his wife had an expensive habit that could justify his guitar budget AND satisfy his maturing taste in women's formal wear; " Look! I don't know why these guys think I know everything about everything, I don't even know who they are! I'll get rid of them right now!" Hans stormed off, down the hallway, across the bridge of the Koi pond in their foyer, and answered the door. "What?!" He asked the two gentleman.
"Pleasure to meet you, my name is Rango and this is Frank. We came hear to ask you about the whole "One Guitar" myth. You see, the leprechaun hath returned."
"Hath returned?" mocked Hans.
"Hath returned." Frank replied, dead serious.
"Right. Well thanks a lot for dropping by, it's always great to find out random people can just stop by.... How did you know where to find my home? Google maps?" Hans asked sarcastically.
"Hey we are not just random people." Rango said; "This here is Frankie Bello...."
Hans cut him off; "From Anthrax? I F$$kin' love Anthrax!"
Frank and Rango looked at each other until Frank replied; "Uh... um... Yeah?! I'm totally from Anthrax. In fact Scott Ian gave me your address, you guys met at a S.O.D. show or something?"
"Totally! I can't believe he remembered that, I was like... seventeen! I don't recall giving him my address... but.. Come on in!"
Hans lead the men in through the foyer and into his music room; "Have a seat. All I can tell you is this..........."
"........... there is a legend.
The legend says that in order to defeat the leprechaun, you must posses the first Custom 24 that Paul used to get investors for the company. It was the guitar that actually mesmerized these investors for you see the investors were also leprechauns, after all what are leprechauns but hoarding troll people with the shrewdness to finance a venture as opulent as PRS?
Before you ask me where to find this guitar let me tell you that it has been "officially" listed as stolen...... Like it doesn't even exist. Here, this is a picture from an obscure Dave Burrluck scripture I bought from Amazon. com
However, there are some tales that speak of the "One" as not being stolen but rather safeguarded. Three men are supposed to hold the "key" to the location of the "One" , they are called: "De Tree Cola Bredren" defenders of the faith."
"Uh, that isn't much of a legend" Rango said; " It just sounds like we have to acquire more guitars, what else is new?"
"Exactly!" Hans blurted out: "Don't you ever wonder why you always want a new guitar? It isn't because you are a horrible materialist! It's because our ancestors passed down this trait in ritual to defend us from the evil leprechauns!! IN OUR DNA! IT"S THERE!"
Rango looked at Hans like he was that dude from "Ancient Aliens", you know, the one with the crazy eyes and jacked up hair. To his immediate right Rango noticed Frank had the same look on his face, it was like gun fever mixed with bird flu; not exactly a real illness until you visualized it enough to make it a tangible thing like in "The Secret".
"I have a yellowish-green Siggy in the trunk of the car I'll trade you for this Glittered Starla!" Frank spazzed out and yelled to Hans.
"What about finding the three "Bredren"? Isn't that more important right now?!" Rango exclaimed.
"Deal! No give backs!" Hans said in the direction of Frank.
"G@d D@mnit! Hans!" the voice of [Beep. censored for privacy] yelled down the hallway; "Your daughter is playing Polly Pocket's with some fruitcake in the backyard! You better have this taken care of before I get back from yoga, and Nooo I'm not wearing the tight yoga pants, so skip the amorous routine and ditch these weirdos! Dinner by six and then my Bravo! shows start at seven, and then we can look through the Crate & Barrel catalog for a housewarming present for my cousin Lisa. Oh, we are meeting with Hunter and Brooke tomorrow morning for the Farmer's Market, so lets get to bed early.... and please do something about that guy in the backyard after you take out the trash."
"Polly Pocket? Fruitcake! Backyard, Trash?!!" Hans was worried now.
"Relax." Rango said; "It's just Sergio."
"Oh, all right. Hey would you mind helping me with the trash Frank?"
"Sure, it's on the way to the car" Frank said... "No take backs."
Sergio, you missed your calling. This is great stuff.
From somewhere still in Eastern Europe, Ell Chefman spoke 9 words into his transmitter....they were..."Sergio, you missed your calling. This is great stuff".
Originally Posted by LSchefman
This was the secret code that activated the devices at his disposal. The forces were gathering towards an apocalyptic conclusion. these 9 words were the codes that would ensure the denouement of a certain madman in NJ who had a penchant for bad furnishings and outdated decor.
In his basement "laboratory", Opraman barely felt the incendiary blasts. In a moment, the house was engulfed in flames. Walking the dog, Ginger could see the house folding in upon itself, with no signs of life.
"What's the name of that guy on Facebook who keeps asking to be my friend?" She thought to herself, without missing a beat.
"Arf!" said Wayne, the Airedale happily. No more time spent watching Opraman in the basement, waiting in vain for a cookie or biscuit.
Hans watched the guys pull away. Their departure was more emotional than he'd expected. Well, not so much the departure - it was really the sudden end of Polly Pocket in the backyard. The tears, the wails of despair, the pleas of "Please Daddy, just a little longer!" His daughter's tears always touched him - that Sergio's did was a surprise, especially since his daughter had given Hans that "please - get me out of here" look that he knew so well from his favorite guitar store. And that other guitar store. And the one just around the corner from that, and the one in the next town.
The phone rang. Hans answered with a half-choked "Hello?"
The voice on the other end said, "Is [Beep. censored for privacy] available?"
Hans said, "No - she just left for yoga. Can I take a message?"
The voice said, "No, thank you. I'll just give her a call later."
Hans paused, then said, "Paul? Is that you? Paul Reed Smith?"
Paul just sighed. "Look, Hans, really - I don't want to talk. I promised [Beep. censored for privacy] - please, ask her to change her name. It hurts my throat every time I have to pronounce those stupid brackets! Anyway, I promised her I'd call her periodically to check on you, but only on the condition that I didn't have to actually talk to you. Especially when I don't have any more rare prototypes left for you to lust over. By the way, your dog's about to knock over the glass of Scotch you left in the dining room."
Hans heard the click as the call ended, followed almost immediately by the crash of the glass in the dining room, followed by the sounds of the dog lapping up a rare 127-year-old Scotch.
"See that's the thing, Bratz teach little girls to be total sluts, whereas Polly Pockets teach children to fit in to mainstream society!" Sergio yelled from the backseat; " There is no middle ground! Where is the....."
"That's it! I can't f#@king stand this anymore!!! I was cool with the pedicure, the appletini, and I didn't say s#!t when you shaved your legs in the hotel bathroom before it was my turn to shower, but I've had enough!" The vein in Rango's forehead was pulsing like it was in a cartoon, Frank had been around many people who had succumbed to the "Breakdown" stage of hanging out with Sergio for a few days and knew that the first step to combat it was to first get the victim some food, and second distract Sergio with something else.
"Hey! Look! There is actually a Bennigan's at the next exit. Why don't we pull over for some food?" Frank suggested. "Sergio, you want some fried cheese?"
As the men walked to the front door of "America's Favorite Forgotten Irish Chain Pub" ( that's what Bennigan's marketing department had chosen as their new tag line) Sergio continued on a similar, yet different rant; " How come the irish don't have a good potato recipe? I mean the French do, the Italians do, Mexico, Indians do, even America has french fries! You would think that a culture that would have gone extinct if not for potato's would have come up with something better than boiling those f@#ker's and flavoring them with lawn clippings!"
Frank whispered into the hostesses ear, they were lead to a table in the corner, seated, and Frank was handed a remote control for the big screen TV right across from where Sergio was seated. "I'll never get sports! I mean I could understand it if you were watching them for the cheerleaders! Why is the Lingerie Bowl only a half hour? I think the Super Bowl should be at halftime and....." Sergio trailed off when Frank changed the channel to "Project Runway"... "Okay we will have two Guinness, anything alcoholic that comes in a empty pineapple with a parasol, two steaks- medium rare, and some fried cheese. Thanks!" Frank said to the waitress and then turned to Rango; "This should buy us an hour or so."
The steak and stout leveled Rango's testosterone to a point he had not felt in days as Frank knew it would, Sergio got up and left the table after his second fruity pineapple drink and disappeared through a door marked "Staff Only" leaving the two men to get down to business.
"What are we supposed to do?" asked Rango; " It seemed somewhat do-able to find "The One" guitar, but now we have to find another one from the "Tree Cola Bredren"? What does that even mean?!"
" It must be some sort of riddle... maybe it has something to do with the wood it's made out of?" replied Frank.
"Ah, the Cola tree." Rango said back while having a knowing expression on his face; "Must be illegal, or at the very least rare!"
"Right!" said Frank; "We should contact this Arborist I know, He will have the answe...."
Just then Sergio returned to the table with the hostess, her hair was disheveled and the back of her dress was tucked into her pantyhose, while she didn't look extremely happy.. Sergio was grinning from ear to ear. "So what are you guys talkin' about?" Sergio asked. He then fake-typed something into his brand new iPhone, (presumably the hostesses phone number). Sergio kissed the phone in a way that "Larry" from the television show"Three's Company" would have if cell phones were a regular sight at the "Regal Beagle" and nodded at the young girl meaning he had saved her number.
Rango knew this was a farce, he had received the same text message in duplicate from Sergio for the past four days, every hour on the hour, the man was hopeless when it came to cellular technology; "We figured out what Hans meant! The "Tree Cola Bredren" is a species of tree that "The One" is made from! All we have to do is get a MODCAT number and the dealer info and we can send that damn leprechaun back to whence he came!!!!"
"Whence?" asked Sergio.
"W-W-Whence?!" stammered Frank.
"Shut up! You know, WHERE, or, THE PLACE from where Red came." Rango looked rather pleased with his theory.
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" Sergio laughed and was kinda' acting like a d!ck; "Tree Cola Bredren!?! Ah...Ha! Ha! A TREE!!! Ah Ha! HA!...."
"So help me I'm gonna smack you out of that Pink Fog you've been floatin' in faster than you can say BMW!" Rango turned red in the face and was about to give Sergio the beat down of a lifetime; "DIE FRUITCAKE!!!"
Frank grabbed Rango by the shoulders and sat him back down; "CHILL RANGO! Get a hold of yourself man! We shouldn't be fighting each other... the enemy is out there man... out there!"
"Sorry... you're right." Rango acknowledged his anger and retreated to a calm place in his mind; "What do you think it means?"
"I'll tell you" Sergio said; "It's in a form of dialect that can only be described as "Colorastian" a backwards form of Jamaican Patois that has been bastardized by caucasian dudes, it means: The Three Color Brethren. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the three Custom 24's that PRS supposedly made for Carlos Santana in the nineties."
"They must be the keys to "The One"! Who knows where we can find them!?" Frank asked.
"Oh, I got that." replied Sergio; " I have been stalking those guys for like, two years. They won't give 'em up though.... it's like the Knights of the Round Table or some s#!t... kinda' makes sense now.... I got their names and address from Google maps, I can set the GPS."
Rango swiped the iPhone from Sergio's hand: "I'll take that. I don't want to get lost on the way there because you accidentally redirected us to a Forever 21 that was having a sale in Iowa.... Oh and Miss? May I have the check please? Yes, and um, I have a Groupon?.... Yes I realize it's expired.. may I please talk to your manager? I'm sure we can work something out....."
Back at his lair....
Red was enjoying Kentucky Fried Chicken biscuits and Zimas... many, many, biscuits and Zimas. Red was on a conference call with two men who could either be his masters or his minions, only time will tell which they will be....
"Yeah! Snarf snarf, I think things are going quite well if you ask me! You gentlemen did a fine job with the whole Hamer and Guild dissolution, and Henr.. er, I mean Orville, Steinberger and Kramer are NEVER coming back! Snarf snarf... All we have to do is continue to steal their endorsers and get them playing "Quicklead" guitars and we can force a merger." Red nearly regurgitated biscuit juice on the phone as he said this.
"The marketing boys are keen on starting another campaign against them, if we can shake their consumer base they may have no other course of action but to sell." The man referred to only as "Leo" said.
"But to whom?" Henr..er, um.. Orville said; "We have just as much a right to this takeover as anyone else! You think it's easy to run coffee shops and pay off Uncle Sam at the same time? Manufacturing a "flood" to distract consumers of our OEM practice has resulted in insane profits!! Why else would we try to dupe the IRS with the "Firebird X"?! Do you think we were stupid enough to believe anyone would buy such a thing? NO! This is business and REVENGE! I'm not gonna be made a fool of in front of the Supreme Court three times..."
"To whom?" The man identified as "Leo" said.
"Snarf... To Whom?" Red asked.
"Yeah... TO WHOM!... I say WE are going to buy it. WE are going kill it, and then WE will sell it to the Chinese!" Orville replied.
"Well if I do help bring them down, "whom" is going to.. snarf.. build my Quicklead line? Snarf.. I don't like immigrants, and their spicy food upsets my bowels." Red proclaimed.
"Let us not start fighting over the corpse of a living creature so soon my friends, we still have much work to do. Our agent in MI6 has warned us that somebody may be trying to stop you with "The One" Red, you won't be of much help to us if you don't deal with them." leo said.
"Is this true Red?" Orville asked; "This wouldn't be the first time you have disappointed us, do I have to remind you about your time with us?"
Red did his best to hide the hatred he felt for both of these men, but if he had to decide which one of them he wanted to see perish first... he could answer that in a second.
"No, of course not.. Snarf, snarf... I have got everything under control. I have an inside guy... Nobody knows who he is, I get 24 hour updates from him, and will know what they are planing to do before they do!"
"Well I hope you know what you're doing... your expense reports are upsetting the accounting department, and we are not as flush with revenue as we once were after that whole stock exchange thing." said Leo.
"Trust me." Red replied; "I have them just where I want them... Snarf ,snarf."
Doc Bill set the speed control for 'cruise', which in his rented Bugatti Veyron Super Sport was a mild 210 mph. He had had the Bugatti up to over 250, but backed off a bit when "Hot Rod Lincoln" came up in the random music queue.
His resultant average speed was therefore a little over 190, even accounting for the stoplights, traffic and the toll at the Bay Bridge. He had slowed to 97 for the toll, the threshold he had found for the EZ Pass readers on the Western edge of the bridge. His travel time from Carroll County to the factory at Stevensville was thus just a little over 30 minutes for the 60 mile trip.
He eased the Bugatti into the space reserved for Mike Deeley, it was after two and Mike would be on the road somewhere having a beer with a dealer. "A beer, as in one," snorted Ruger.
He walked up the ramp at the NorthWest corner of the building and knocked the secret knock.
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny."
One of the crew from the SE final inspection team let him in. Doc Bill headed for the meeting room he knew would be set up in the room just behind reception. Despite the speed of his steed, Ruger could see that he was almost late, the room was already crowded.
The Private Stock Team were there as was PTC - the Special Forces Unit. In the corner he spied two other familiar faces.
"Don't you ladies ever tire of that game?" interrupted Ruger.
"No." smiled Autumn Sky. "Ever since we used that exchange to mesmerize our captors in the North Korea long enough for Sky to garrote the chief interrogator while I kicked the guard in the Ben Was. It saved our lives."
"You garroted the questioner?"
"No, Sky did that," said Autumn Sky.
"Who kicked the guard in the nads?"
"No, Sky did that."
Both women were on the verge of cracking up as Doc bill became increasingly confused. But before Ruger could get the story sorted out, Paul walked in.
"Hi, Paul," the group said in unison.
"Hi, friends." Paul looked at a sander in the fourth row. "There is a mouse under the rack of blanks three from the left in the fourth bank of shelves in the shop. I just heard it sneeze. Go kill it." The sander left the room with his jaw on the floor.
"New guys," Doc Bill chuckled to himself.
In New Jersey, the wrecking crew was still trying to pull all of the debris out of the smoldering crater where Opraman had used to live. Ginger and Wayne, the Airedale, had already taken up residence with one of Ginger's many facebook and farmville friends. Bennett was no longer a thought in either of their minds.
Within the debris, a phone could be heard.
Among the scattered detritis, including some random bone fragments and ligament tissue, the remains of what appeared to be some rag dolls, dressed differently, with various pins sticking out of them, could be seen.
A first responder found the phone..remarkably intact within the carnage. however, upon closer inspection, he noted that it was a unique instrument. It had no ability to send...only receive...and it appeared to be constructed of a metal known as "unobtainium".
The phone continued to ring. the ring tone was a "Lucky Charms Cereal" advertisement.
"Hello" said the first responder...."hello...hello??"
A muffled voice replied..."hold for Mr. Raman" and in the background...."Red....pick up...Opraman answered...finally!"
"Bennett....what's up...you're 3 hours overdue. Status report!"
The first responder replied, "I'm very sorry...I think the party you are calling is deceased. this is just his telephone".
"Damn" was heard, as the phone went dead.
The first responder went back to his gruesome task. He threw the telephone into the pile of collected debris, and thought no more about it. Picking up what appeared to be a skull fragment and a piece of fibula, he was intent on obtaining all of the former resident's body parts so that a decent burial could be arranged.
"Damn, too late," thought the first author... He had handed control of 'Bennett' over to the fifth author and just a couple of posts later, that author immolated the character. Before the first author could save him, the fith was burying his bones. The first author would not make that mistake again...
In the Leprechaun Cloning Facility, a new batch of red haired minions was being issued their greens. Bennet set up the facility at the behest of Red and was assured he would be handsomely paid. Bennett had made the mistake of asking why it was necessary to clone and Red had patiently explained the obvious - no woman in her right mind would have sex with a leprechaun, let alone carry his baby. "That explains their general disposition, then," Bennet had thought to himself.
News of Oppraman's toasty end reached the facilities manager via an angry phone call from Red, known in the cloning unit as "Big Red One." The comely secretary Bennett had just hired days before wept. It had nothing to do with Bennett. Her father-in-law's brother's niece's chiropractor's dog had mange and the news had rocked her.
There was a knock on Chefman's hotel room door.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Telegram," said the voice. Chefman pulled out the Makorov pistol he'd taken from the first hotel manager and opened the door, making sure to duck out of the way of the anticipated Land Shark attack.
But there stood Lena.
"What, you think we don't get Saturday Night Live reruns in Belorus?" she asked, scowling. Then she burst into a smile, and hugged Chefman. "This is all I get?" she asked. "You, I could shoot. But thank you."
Chefman quickly pushed her out of the way of the door, and onto the floor as two silenced bullets ripped through the door. "I said no tricks!" Chefman yelled after them. He could hear footsteps running down the hall. He knew better than to go after them. There would be a third man waiting to kill whoever came out the door of the room first. Still laying on the floor, he called the front desk.
"Give me Bodashka," he said. After an interminable wait of a minute and a half, the old man answered the phone.
"I told you, no tricks."
"Hauptmann," said Bodashka, "There were no tricks, I have given you the girl."
"Then you were followed. Send a house detective up to my floor and get rid of whoever is in the hall, or you are a dead man in two ways."
"Yes, Hauptmann," said the older man. "It will be done. I'm sorry." He couldn't believe his ploy hadn't worked. Sweat started to bead on his forehead.
"Sorry will cost you," said Ell, and he hung up the phone.
Lena was breathing hard from the excitement. Her senses were aroused. And she hadn't had sex in 70 years. Ell could hear the house detective and several men searching the hall. He knew that for appearance's sake, Bodashka had to make it appear as though he hadn't been in on the attempt to kill them. But he also knew that Bodashka couldn't simply return the woman without consequences from the Leprechaun.
He pulled out his iPhone. "Siri, get me Doc Bill." Obligingly, the phone began to dial. "Hello Ell," said Doc Bill.
"Bill, I need your help, and no time for questions. I'm going to give you an email address. I need your people to send a fake paypal payment to it. It needs to be obviously fake, in the amount of $130,000. Got that? OK, sending the address now. Gotta go."
"Won't he know it's a fake payment?" asked Lena.
"Yes," said Ell. "That's the point. At first, he won't know what's happening. It will take him some time, maybe a half a day, to figure it out. Owing him the money will keep us alive for a little while. Eventually, he will have to come to us for it. He's deep in debt. He will come to us. But right now we need to go. Grab your things and let's get out of here. I'll order the car."
Bodashka went to his office and closed the door. He opened a cabinet and turned on the digital playback of the bug he'd put in Chefman's room. There was only snoring, then he heard the recording of Lena's knock on the door and entry, and one muffled bullet. Then it went dead.
As Chefman checked the room for his things, he noticed a buillet hole in the lampshade, but there was a bent piece of metal coming out of it. He looked closer and saw that the bullet that came through the door had destroyed a tiny bugging device. "Lucky shot," he thought, as they left the room.
As the Mercedes pulled away from the hotel and headed back to Minsk, Chefman knew that there would be a homing device attached to the car. Though he could easily find it with the help of the special guitar PRS had made him, he also wanted Bodashka to be able to find them.
As they drove, Lena leaned over the console of the Mercedes and put her head on Chefman's shoulder.
"I'm beginning to like you, a lot," she said in a sleepy voice. "Why are we stopping?"
"I have something to do, it'll take a second." They were upstream of Kiev, he'd stopped by the Dnieper. It was dark and no one was around. He carefully wiped down the Makarov MP to remove any prints, and removed the clip. One by one, he wiped down each bullet and the clip, and with his gloves on, threw the gun, the clip, and the bullets into the darkness of the river. He kneeled and waited for a few minutes to see if he could see anyone. There was only a dog barking in the distance.
He knew that eventually the link between Karinsky's disappearance and the Mercedes would be made. The weapon was a liability, as was the car. But he needed the Mercedes for a short while.
He walked back to the car, and saw that Lena was asleep. Ell got behind the wheel, turned on the radio, and picked up a Belorusian station.
They were playing the James Bond movie theme music. He recognized the guitar part. "Great tone," he thought. The black Mercedes roared off into the night.
In his office, Bodashka turned on his computer, and a map came up on the screen. A blinking red dot showed him the location of the homing device he'd put on the car. A smile crossed his lips. "Big Deutsches Reich spymaster," he thought. "We are smarter than we used to be."
(cue Bond theme)
The Mercedes pulled into Minsk, and in front of the Crowne Plaza. Chefman and Lena got out with their luggage and checked into the hotel. Ell had the valet park the car. He couldn't help but notice the tiny "L" tattooed onto the left earlobe of the night manager.
"Handy way to keep track of foreigners," thought Chefman. "Put plants in hotels, and they'll be able to track travelers anywhere. Nice thinking, Leprechaun."
By now, the pair were exhausted, and all they could do was lay down in the room and immediately fall asleep.
Doc Bill hit the 'End' button on his iPhone 5. "Go ahead, Ruger." said Paul. "We'll wait until you help Chefman." He had of course heard the entire conversation even though Paul was in the front of the room and Ruger in back with the phone pressed tightly to his ear.
Slightly embarrassed, Ruger fired up his iPad, opened PayPal and set up a dummy account called 'Shamrock Suckers, LTD'. He linked it to a phony Cayman bank account and made it appear that the routing was from Pyongyang through Kuala Lumpur through Djibouti through Epworth Iowa and then the Caymans. Doc Bill knew that if the payment was traced it would at first look to be legit since it went through Epworth, a little town of only 1642 people but with a truly international bank, but then be discovered as a fake because absolutely nobody does business with Pyongyang. He hit send and closed the iPad.
"Routed through Pyongyang, eh?" said Paul. "That'll keep them guessing for a little while. Paul had heard the faint keyclick feedback sounds from the iPad at the back of the room and of course could tell which letter was being pressed even though they sounded identical to everyone else within earshot. And even the people sitting in front of Ruger weren't within earshot.
Paul smiled. "Our sander will be on his way back, I just heard him suffocate the mouse in the wood shop."
The sander returned and flipped the mouse in Skitchy's lap where it was dipped in Spotted Dick and quickly swallowed. "Don't you ever share?" asked Shawn.